Wednesday, December 31, 2003

A frenzied round of gardening and debauchery

Saw a Wesley Clark stump speech on McNeil-Lehrer. Someone needs to ask him to explain how military experience--and only military experience--makes him so qualified to handle foreign policy, as he keeps saying. He also says that if he’d been president, we would have caught Osama bin Laden by now, because he knows how to do it. So maybe he should share that with somebody, rather than withhold it until he can become president, which is over a year away. This is Nixon’s secret plan to win in Vietnam all over again.

A week ago I mentioned that a quote in a Fisk article of a US officer talking about the need to “instill fear” in Iraqi villagers, and that the quote appeared in no other media that I could find. A news.google search today still only shows it in Fisk’s piece (since picked up by Aljazeerah & a Bangladeshi newspaper), ditto Lexis-Nexis. However, one of y’all informs me that it actually was FILMED and broadcast by CNN International, so there really is no excuse for the media silence.

Tony Blair says his job is only half-done. If there is a rash of suicides in the UK, it might have something to do with the prospect of Our Tone still being PM in 2010.

Today’s the day Britain releases 30-year old secret documents, so I’ve been reading up on 1973. Ted Heath thought (sounds like with good reason) that the US was planning to invade Saudi Arabia, Abu Dhabi and Kuwait in response to the oil embargo. There was also a juicy sex scandal in which a junior defence minister was filmed smoking a joint in bed with two prostitutes. He told MI5 that in response to depression over losing a fight to use the title “viscount,” he threw himself into a “frenzied” round of “gardening and debauchery.” Some files were not released, leaving us wondering what remains top secret about an Imelda Marcos visit to London.

CBS paid Michael Jackson $1 million for an interview on 60 Minutes. Journalistic ethics at its finest.

A Liverpool woman had a heart attack on a flight to America. Which also turned out to be carrying 15 cardiologists on their way to a convention, so she was ok.

In Nature, the scientific journal for people with too much time on their hands, an article analyzes the best way to skip stones (a 20 degree angle to the water’s surface).

Tuesday, December 30, 2003

The right to take nude photos of Barbie dolls being menaced with kitchen appliances

WaPo headline: “Almanacs May Be Tool For Terrorists, FBI Says.” Amish terrorists?

Israeli reality tv (shudder) has a show called Test of the Nation in which people from various walks of life take an IQ test. Surprisingly, lawyers and teachers come near the top, models and bodybuilders at the bottom. And the 6 members of the Knesset? Somewhere in the model. But, it turns out, they cheated.

The chicken hawk faction, led by Richard Perle (he has a book due out), has issued a manifesto with the modest title, An End to Evil: How to Win the War on Terror. Regime change in Syria and Iran, a military blockade of North Korea, treating Saudi Arabia and France as rivals or enemies.

Bits of the Patriot II bill were quietly snuck onto other legislation this month. The FBI can now get information without a warrant (but with a gag order) not only from banks, but stockbrokers, car dealerships, credit card companies, airlines, the post office, casinos, etc etc. In the Senate it passed with a voice vote, so no one will be blamed. The previous requirement for the FBI to report to Congress how often it uses warrantless “National Security Letters” is now gone.

From the Daily Telegraph: “A US court yesterday upheld an artist's right to take nude photos of Barbie dolls being menaced with kitchen appliances, despite objections from toymaker Mattel. ...The photo series included a picture of Barbie dolls wrapped in tortillas and covered in salsa in a casserole dish.” Damn, I’m proud to be an American.

When Mad Cow Disease first hit Britain, the Ag minister--still in a Mad Cow, what mad cow? mode--famously fed a hamburger to his kid on tv. Now the US Ag Sec, Ann Venemen, has promised to feed beef to her family over the holidays. Venemen was a lobbyist for the beef industry before taking her current job. So at least she gets to clean up the mess she helped cause. White House spokesmodel Scott McClellan says that Bush has “continued to eat beef,” but he may have been making a comment about Bush’s sexual practices rather than his eating practices.

Monday, December 29, 2003

"Hi." Is that it?

The National Park Service recently approved selling at national park gift stores books giving Creationist explanations for things like the Grand Canyon, explaining how it’s not really millions of years old but 10, 20 years tops.

The great Alan Bates has died. Judging by the obits, he was best known for wrestling Oliver Reed naked. I saw him on the stage in London once in a John Osborne play without quite so much naked wrestling (although there were a fair number of female impersonators).

From Reuters: Sicilian police say they have charged a man who persuaded a friend to shoot him in the groin in a vain attempt to make his ex-girlfriend feel sorry for him. The man, 27, apparently admitted to hospital staff in Piazza Armerina that he had not been involved in a hunting accident as he first claimed.

http://69.56.179.3/audio/peeance.wav This is an audio clip, just a few seconds long.

Al Sharpton: “[Bush] had the audacity to say, 'It doesn't matter whether it was weapons or not, Saddam Hussein was a bad guy and it was the right thing to do. That's like me coming to the Commonwealth Club and saying that we all must get out of the building, we are in imminent danger; and we all get outside on Market Street and you say, 'Reverend Al, where's the danger?' 'Ahh, it doesn't matter, you all needed some fresh air anyhow.'”

The Monday WashPo reports on the military instituting a sort of draft, of people already working for it whose contracts were due to run out or who were going to retire. While understandable, it’s not especially smart, since it makes clear to people who would otherwise join up in the future that the terms of the contract can be changed by the government into anything it wants.

The Sunday Times (London) says “The government yesterday confirmed that MI6 had organised Operation Mass Appeal, a campaign to plant stories in the media about Saddam Hussein's weapons of mass destruction.” This began in the late 1990s. It gets worse: Scott Ritter says that he was recruited in 1997, with the approval of Richard Butler, who was executive chairman of the UN Special Commission on Iraq Disarmament. MI6 planted information in newspapers in Poland, India and South Africa, from where it would feed back to the US & Britain.

Confirming everything you ever heard about British families, this is Mark Henderson, released by Colombian rebels this week, speaking to his father for the first time: “Three months in the jungle and you say 'Hi'. Is that it?”

Saturday, December 27, 2003

The Informal Anarchic Federation strikes again

Must...not...make...jokes...about...Bam....

Cuba denounces the Guantanamo concentration camp. What took it so long?

Article on Southern Baptists and others using aid to Iraq as a cover for proselytizing (hey, I spelled that right on the first attempt). I also googled to some of the Baptist newsletters mentioned in it, and yech. Fortunately, no Southern Baptists actually seem to know Arabic, so they can’t be doing that much damage.

Heh, the next story in the Telegraph is about Japanese troops finally arriving in Iraq. I think Shinto could go over real well there. May the biggest god win (and yes, William Boykin really was never fired, transferred or disciplined in any way).

Not surprisingly, the head of the IAEA says that Libya was nowhere near building a nuclear bomb. The US has succeeded in removing yet another mythical threat from the planet.

Tony Blair this week declared victory over another one, saying that there was “massive evidence of a huge system of clandestine laboratories” and an attempt to “conceal weapons” in Iraq. When that claim was put to Paul Bremer--without telling him it came from Blair--he flatly denied it, calling it “a bit of a red herring.” Hurrah for the British interviewer, Jonathan Dimbleby, who pulled off that one. Ted Koppel wouldn’t have dared.

Kallyfohrnia’s new lefty governor, ahem, has suggested cutting the prison population by say one-third, and release rather than parole non-violent offenders.

There was an attempt to kill Romano Prodi, president of the European Commission, with a letter bomb. Responsibility was claimed by the Informal Anarchic Federation (!).

Thursday, December 25, 2003

What we have here is a failure to communicate in tongues

Florida opens the first “faith-based” prison (actually an existing prison, but it’s found the Lord, hallelujah). It will be a great success, because it will cherry-pick the prisoners least likely to make the program look bad, thereby affecting the ongoing Republican project of letting the God-botherers take over the provision of all social services in this country at taxpayer expense. Presumably, all of Florida’s other prisons, with the best-behaved prisoners skimmed off, will be just that little bit more hell-holeish. Jeb Bush: “I can't think of a better place to reflect on the awesome love of our lord Jesus than to be here at Lawtey Correctional.” Which didn’t stop him leaving a short time later, of course, unlike the rest of the, um, parishioners, who were a little more worried about the awesome love of their cellmate Big Vinnie, if you know what I mean.

The Rise of the Machine continues. Governor Ahnuuld ordered the release of funds to cities and counties in partial compensation for the loss of the car tax revenues. Of course he has no such power and has been called on it. Now, he has decided to refuse to give people on welfare their legally required cost-of-living increase.

A year ago, the US military started trying to recruit Canadian Inuits, claiming that under the Jay Treaty (1794), they were joint US-Canadian citizens. (About the same time, I mentioned that they were also going into Mexico to recruit). Canada, like Mexico, told them to knock it off. The Voice article also notes that the privatization of military logistical support including security means the importation into Iraq of “franchised versions of the French Foreign Legion” which are not protected under the Geneva Conventions.

So they sent a probe to Mars on Christmas and wouldn’t you know it, some Martian kid has already broken the thing. His father is looking at the instructions and saying “They might as well be in Terran...”

Anyone else wondering if the US just canceled a perfectly ordinary Air France flight just in order to be able to claim they foiled a terrorist attack (and cheese off the French at the same time)?

It’s time for best-of-the-year.
Best mug shots of the year.

Another article in the LA Weekly describes Bush in the flight suit as looking like the Lost Member of the Village People.

Tuesday, December 23, 2003

Yup, all the good subject lines were used up yesterday

According to the National Weather Service website, "Unusually hot weather has entered the region for December ... as the Earth has left its orbit and is hurtling towards the sun. Unusually hot weather will occur for at least the next several days as the Earth draws ever nearer to the sun. Therefore, an excessive heat watch has been posted." That announcement was soon taken down, but it might explain the orange alert.

Speaking of alarming, here’s a truly repulsive headline from today’s NYT science section: “Attacking Prostate on 2 Fronts.”

Speaking of repulsive stories, does anyone want to hear how I took care of a little dermatological growth this week? Probably not, huh? Although if it had gone horribly wrong, some ER doc would be telling it to her whole extended family right about now: “He took a pair of pliers, and then guess what he did...”

Would have broken up a dull week, anyway. And there’s a kid in the building too, my divorced next-door neighbor’s son, who’s in such noisy high spirits that I’m strongly tempted to ring the doorbell and tell him that there is no Santa Claus. Must be 35 years since the last time I did that...

Speaking of believing in Santa Claus, are we really going to let Pakistan get away with claiming that its top nuclear scientists were working on their own in spreading nuclear technology to Iran, North Korea, etc etc?

Speaking of weapons of mass destruction, Princess Anne’s bull terrier has killed one of the Queen’s corgis. Christmas may be a little awkward this year, but with the royal family, when isn’t it?

NY Governor Pataki issues a pardon for Lenny Bruce.

The Beagle 2 has reached Mars, and Ladbrokes has cut the odds on finding life there from 33-1 to 25-1.

With Palestinians excluded from Israel proper, Israeli companies have been scrambling to import cheap slave labor from all over the world. One company required its Chinese workers to sign a contract not to have sex with any Israelis, or marry them. Or practice any religion. Or politics.

Monday, December 22, 2003

Harassing a wild burro on federal lands

It’s like waiting for a bus. I haven’t had a good subject line in days, and then 3 come at the same time.

To elaborate on Joshua Marshall’s take on Libya, there was no “break-through” last week: Libya’s been trying to get back on our good side for years. Bush pushed on an open door in order to declare yet another victory for the Bush Doctrine. Of course (and this is my elaboration), only a rabid right-wing Republican could have done it, Nixon going to China and all that. Imagine the reaction if Clinton had done what Bush did.

Tom Ridge says if we don’t see our grandmothers for Christmas, the terrorists win. Yeah, but what if your grandmother is a terrorist, huh, huh, huh?

Speaking of terrorists, the NYT has a headline, “Israeli Forces Arrest a Senior Hamas Official in the West Bank.” The fact that they also shot a 5-year old boy dead is not mentioned in the headline, nor in the first, second, third, fourth, fifth, or sixth paragraphs. Callous, much?

They do have a good article on workplace deaths, which you’ll be surprised to hear OSHA never bothers to prosecute, including where employers had previously been cited for safety violations that later resulted in death. Such cases used to be called “willful” violations, but OSHA now usually calls them “unclassified,” precisely to prevent the possibility of anyone going to prison for it. As it is, killing a worker is a misdemeanor under federal law, with a maximum sentence of 6 months, half that for harassing a wild burro on federal lands (well, that’s what is says in the article. I’m assuming that’s not sexual harassment). For the 2,197 deaths the Time tracked over 20 years, employers paid $106m in fines (compared to the $750m paid by WorldCom for misleading investors, obviously a much more serious crime), and were sentenced to under 30 years, most of which were for a single case in which 25 workers died.

Another headline from the German cannibal trial: “Cannibal Rejected Victims Who Were 'Too Fat'”.

A researcher claims that Joan of Arc was actually a put-up job, actually the illegitimate daughter of a previous king, induced to pretend to be a peasant as a symbol of God’s support for the French cause. He also thinks another woman, a condemned witch, was burned in her place and that she lived to her late 50s in prison.

A Guardian writer asks why the US is trying so hard to get Iraq’s debt forgiven and trying so hard not to get the debt rung up by Argentina’s dictators forgiven.

If you’d prefer to read total nonsense on the subject, there was Safire’s piece in today’s NYT, in which he said that France and Germany were forgiving billions of dollars owed to them in exchange for access to a few million in contracts.

Department of Homeland Security Pun Alert Level: Orange. Orange you glad it isn't red?

A Hanukkah story: a Polish brother and sister, each thinking the other died in the Holocaust, were reunited for the first time this week since 1938. Turns out they’ve been living 60 miles from each other, in Israel, since 1948.

The LA Times investigated the claims by the Justice Dept to have successfully dealt with 280 terrorism cases since 9/11. Some of them turn out to have been people even Justice admits weren’t terrorists, although they were accidentally discovered during terrorism investigations (like 2 owners of corner stores in Jersey who received boxes of stolen cereal in 2000, or the guy who paid a bribe to get a driver’s license)(and as shown by the fact that these terrorists received a median sentence of 2 weeks). In fact, Justice’s rationale for stone-walling the Times’s questions about the alleged 280 is that it would be “prejudicial” to the people who aren’t terrorists but are nonetheless included in the figure if their names were released.

So what is it Libya is supposed to have? “Weapons programs,” evidently, which as we know from Iraq means anything or nothing.

The neo-cons are celebrating this triumph of pre-emptive scaring the crap out of every country on the planet.

A Sunday Times writer summarizes Tony Blair’s speech on the subject: “Oops, we got the wrong country. Still, let's not quibble about a bit of smelly Arab desert. Great news. I've saved the world. Again. Good night.”

Speaking of WMDs in the Middle East, Israel threatened to shoot down Egyptian spy drones which have been flying over its nuclear weapons and missile sites.

Sunday, December 21, 2003

What Brazilian nuns pray for

Rumsfeld’s famous 1984 trip to see Saddam Hussein, according to declassified documents, was made to assure him that US criticism of his use of chemical weapons was just rhetoric that didn’t affect US support of him. This is the exact opposite of what Rumsfeld has said the trip was about.

How do we know Libya is keeping its promise to give up WMDs? Because of weapons inspectors. Bush has always believed strongly in the efficacy of weapons inspectors and we have always been at war with Oceania.

A figure I missed from the Russian Duma elections: 4.7% voted for of the above, a record. And turnout was 55%. Putin may have a little problem when it comes to his re-election: for the election to be valid, turnout must be 50%, and he’s got no serious rival, thanks to his having destroyed the nascent democratic culture of post-Soviet Russia, and voters will make the entirely reasonable decision not to bother. So it’s expected that Putin might funnel enough backing to some other candidate to make it look like a real election (which seems to be what happened in the Duma elections, where a “left-nationalist” party appeared out of nowhere).

Pope John Paul II has created an almost ridiculous number of saints, many of them political figures. This week they’ve started beatifying the last Austro-Hungarian emperor. You have to wonder if they actually believe in the rather large number of “miracles” they’ve had to certify, in this case a Brazilian nun who was cured of some disease after praying for Charles I’s beatification. Why a Brazilian nun was praying for Charles I’s beatification, I really couldn’t tell you.

In other royalty news, a certain lump passed around for 200 years has been identified by DNA as indeed being the heart of the French sort-of-king Louis XVII, who died miserably in a revolutionary prison at the age of 10.

And in yet more royalty news, Princess Di was evidently pregnant when she died.

Remember the Kabul-to-Kandahar road? It was the only thing Karzai’s government has been able to accomplish outside of the capital, and hence a great symbol. Evidently it was done on the cheap and its surface is very thin and won’t survive the winter.

Thursday, December 18, 2003

If Philip means horse-lover, what does Strom mean?

Sorry, did I say “what a prince” about Strom Thurmond? I meant grand dragon.

It has been pointed out that Strom (at 22) having sex with a 15- or 16-year old black servant was not illegal under the stat rape or miscegenation laws in effect at the time, but that Strom as a judge in 1942 sentenced a black man to the electric chair for raping a white woman.

A feminist group in Britain has pointed out that for seats it might actually win, the Tory party has selected more candidates named Philip than women with any name. Philip, The Times helpfully points out, means horse-lover.

A Central American semi-free trade pact is being cobbled together without anything resembling public discussion or news coverage in the US. I say semi because most of the free trade concessions will be on their side--they have to sell us their phone systems, and not try to make generic versions of our drugs--while we don’t have to actually take their exports. I haven’t paid enough attention to the details myself to know why they’d want this thing. Costa Rica just pulled out, leaving only those countries that received heavy CIA attention in the 1980s.

Taiwan bans the sale of dog meat.

The governor of Connecticut John Rowland, caught with his hands in the cookie jar for the umpteenth time in his career, says that God doesn’t want him to resign. His wife compared the newspaper which uncovered his lies to “grinches who have stolen our tree.”

Diebold, the voting machine company, employs a bunch of convicted felons including purveyors of fraudulent stocks, and falsifiers of computer records. Swell.

Wednesday, December 17, 2003

Those stupid berets, on the other hand...

France will ban Muslim girls wearing headscarves in schools. Also, Muslim women in hospitals will not be able to refuse being treated by male doctors.

And Saudi Arabia has banned the importation of teddy bears and female dolls. Also crucifixes and models of Buddha.

The Supreme Court has lifted its stay of execution in a Texas case, not bothering to discuss whether it’s ok to use a drug banned for veterinary use in Texas and elsewhere because it is too inhumane for dogs.

Speaking of too inhumane for dogs, Bush’s campaign has hired the advertising guy who created the talking Chihuahua for Taco Bell.

Robert Fisk says that checkpoints in Iraq are now manned by militia working for (and right next to) the Americans--and wearing hoods and masks. (Later:) yup, seen ‘em on the BBC.

Nation article on Bush’s use of religious language.

From the Daily Telegraph: “A traditional doctor in Nigeria has been shot dead by a patient who was testing the potency of an anti-bullet charm which the herbalist had tied around his neck in order to check its efficacy, police said.”

This week Richard Perle described people who oppose American unilateralism as wanting to make US security dependent on “signatures on pieces of paper.” This would be huge, if people were historically literate. They’re not, so it won’t be. When Germany invaded Belgium in 1914 in violation of a treaty guaranteeing that country’s neutrality, the act that brought Britain into the war, the kaiser described the treaty as a “scrap of paper,” a line repeated endlessly for the next 4 years to prove his infamy (infamy, infamy! They’ve all got it in fa’ me!)(sorry).

How did I move from a historical lecture to quoting a Carry On movie?

The black servant Strom Thurmond impregnated must have been 15 or barely 16. What a prince.

Here’s a heart-warming story about a blind guy who went hunting (he got Michigan law changed to allow him to do so), and shot a deer. Well, they told him it was a deer.

From the Diane Sawyer interview with Shrub:
SAWYER: But stated as a hard fact, that there were weapons of mass destruction, as opposed to the possibility that he could move to acquire those weapons still --

BUSH: So what’s the difference?

Between reality and ... wait, I’ve just figured something out. Bush really can’t tell the difference between WANTING something, like WMDs, and HAVING them, because whenever he’s wanted something, his father’s friends gave it to him.

I’ve read part of the transcript, and Sawyer was surprisingly tough on him, and he was very evasive. My favorite question was, what would it take to convince you he had no WMDs. Bush ignored that one entirely. It’s a reminder of how badly he stands up to real questioning, which in turn is a reminder of how rarely he lets himself in for real questioning, which is a reminder of the fact that somehow he can live in that bubble without being seen as the feeb he is.

Britain’s foreign minister spent part of today figuring out how to acquiesce to Bush’s desire to have the Iraqi puppet government execute Hussein. You’ll note I’ve downgraded them to puppet status again, because for all the talk about how whether to impose the death penalty is up to the “Iraqi people,” this thing is very much a show trial. Let me prove it to you: if the Iraqi war crimes court somehow decided that Saddam was innocent, and free to go, do you think that Bush would let that happen? Of course not. A court that only has the option of guilty is not a court.

And while we’re at it, a note to the media: US troops do not “arrest” people in Iraq. They are not the police, they are not enforcing Iraqi law, they are soldiers. They seize, they capture, they cannot arrest. To suggest otherwise is to pretend that the occupation is something other than an occupation.

Tuesday, December 16, 2003

Spider hole of denial

Bush on Saddam: “I find it very interesting that when the heat got on, you dug yourself a hole and you crawled into it.” As opposed to joining the Texas Air National Guard, perhaps?

And more: “The arrest of Saddam Hussein changed the equation in Iraq. Justice was being delivered to a man who defied that gift from the Almighty to the people of Iraq. And justice will be delivered to him in a way that is transparent and for the world to see.”

You know, I may just have figured it out. The Iraqi war crimes tribunal, with its death penalty provisions, was set up as the “bad cop,” to force Saddam to cooperate (i.e., not name every US official who kowtowed to him over the years, starting with Rummy, cough up something vaguely resembling a WMD, and generally play his assigned role in the show trial) with the US, the “good cop.”

The Iraqis really can’t try him. Who would the judges be? Do you have them nameless and wearing hoods as in Peru, or do you name them and watch their families members die one by one?

Good piece on what’s wrong with the proposed Afghan constitution.

Tomorrow is the centenary of heavier-than-air flight. Whee. George Monbiot pours a fetid pile of airline food over the achievement:
When Wilbur Wright was asked, in 1905, what the purpose of his machine might be, he answered simply: "War." As soon as they were confident that the technology worked, the brothers approached the war offices of several nations, hoping to sell their patent to the highest bidder. The US government bought it for $30,000, and started test bombing in 1910. The aeroplane was conceived, designed, tested, developed and sold, in other words, not as a vehicle for tourism, but as an instrument of destruction.

In November 1911, eight years after the first flight, the Italian army carried out the first bombing raid, on a settlement outside Tripoli. Then as now, aerial bombardment was seen as a means of civilising uncooperative peoples. As Sven Lindqvist records in A History of Bombing, the imperial powers experimented freely with civilisation from the skies. Just as the Holocaust was prefigured by colonial genocide, so the bombing raids which reduced Guernica, Hamburg, Dresden, Tokyo and parts of London to ash had been rehearsed in north Africa and the Middle East.

Canada's Air Transport Security Authority banned fruitcakes in carry-on luggage.

Sunday, December 14, 2003

Wolverines!

The Pentagon slapped that lt. col. who fired the gun next to the POW’s head and had his subordinates beat the guy up, with a jolly big fine ($5,000). He is planning to retire. On full pension, of course.

The capture of Saddam was “Operation Red Dawn”, inspired by one of the crappiest movies I ever laughed my ass off while watching (only slightly unsettled by the fact that nobody else in the theater was laughing)(Halliwell’s Film Guide: “Violent teenage nonsense”). Quotes here.

Seriously, this was a rabid, jingoistic, incredibly stupid movie, so you could see why folks in the Pentagon like it, but using its name in this context is a public relations no-no on the scale of “crusade.”

I can’t seem to work up any enthusiasm. That Hussein wasn’t killed, and indeed let himself be taken alive, will help demythologize him, which is all to the good. The Resistance will have to find something better to fight for, assuming that just fighting against the American occupation isn’t enough.

Now who on earth gets to try him, where will he be held, and will somebody start taking hostages in order to demand his release? The slimy answer to the first was no doubt provided by the suspiciously timed establishment by the establishment by the fake Iraqi government of a war crimes show-trial court just a couple of days ago.

I got to see the Commander in Chimp do his victory smirk this morning, which is one reason I’m a little light on the enthusiasm. The photo op of my enemy is my enemy, or something like that. At least it occurred way before the elections, although if Saddam is tried and convicted in, say, October, I won’t be especially...surprised.

And, say, weren’t we the ones complaining when the Iraqis showed pictures of our POWs? So what’s with the “Open up and say ah, Mr. Dictator” footage? Much less parading him like a zoo animal before Ahmad Chalabi.

The Economist on new freedoms for Kurds in Turkey: “A new porn video, Xashiki Kaliki (Grandad's Fantasies) is selling well: until recently, it would have been banned, not for its content but for being in the Kurdish language.”

Grandad's Fantasies?

Friday, December 12, 2003

When did you last pray for your stockbroker?

So I don’t have to write about it, here’s a link to Molly Ivins on the decision to deregulate mercury. A good article, but I have one caveat. She says mercury is one suspect in recent increases in autism, Parkinson's and Alzheimer's. Actually, that’s recent increases in diagnoses of those diseases, none of which can be proven without an autopsy. Increases in diagnoses may not be related to actual incidences of the diseases, but to 1) increased awareness of the diseases, 2) increased medical trendiness of the diagnosis. The same applies to my own “essential tremor,” which I’m still unconvinced is a real disease. Autism is this decade’s ADD, the label to put on any child not behaving “normally.” Autism is no doubt a real disease, but the diagnosis procedure is ridiculous. There are 9 possible symptoms; if you have 4 [my numbers may be off, but the 2nd number is definitely ½ of the 1st number minus 1] you can be diagnosed as autistic, meaning two people without a single symptom in common can be diagnosed with the same disease. In other words, neurology is voodoo.

Reality tv reaches the Arab world: who wants an arranged marriage?

And in Pakistan, a man who blinded his fiancé with acid is sentenced to...if you guessed, be blinded with acid, you are correct!

You’d think opponents of gay marriage wouldn’t object to gay divorce, wouldn’t you?

Thursday, December 11, 2003

Neither sheep nor fools

An internal memo from Diebold, the creepy voting machine company, suggests making it “prohibitively expensive” for states to require printed receipts. The memo was obtained by a hacker, which tells you everything you need to know about the security of any ballot operated by these clowns.

The US authorizes the creation of a new secret police in Iraq, at least partly staffed by members of the old secret police, to be run by a former exile who no doubt has his own get-even list.

Just received the first campaign mailer of the 2004 elections. Evidently there will be a county initiative to ban Wal-Mart. Guess who the mailer was from. Did you know that “Not everyone can afford to shop at fancy department stores”? I weep for those people, forever shut out from the Sears’s and Targets of this world.

A must-read about gerrymandering. If that doesn’t sound like a must-read, just trust me and read it anyway. It explains why Congressional elections barely matter any more.

I wasn’t going to mention the last D debate, especially since I didn’t see it, but I’ve seen excerpts and transcripts now, and Ted Koppel should be horse-whipped. He kept talking about process stuff that no voter cares about (and no voter SHOULD care about), tried to humiliate the lesser candidates into bursting into tears and resigning their candidacies on the spot, accusing Carol Moseley Braun of being a vanity candidate (which she is, but 1) she was a United States Senator, 2) I don’t think he’d have used the term to a male candidate, 3) it’s not his job to say so, 4) and certainly not in that forum). Koppel has been quoted by the Post as wanting a smaller field to make the debates better, or better drama anyway. And the day after the debate, ABC withdrew coverage from the 3 candidates Koppel attacked. Forget Al Gore’s alleged arrogance for daring to express his opinion, what about ABC’s arrogance? Also, aren’t Kucinich, Braun and Sharpton the 3 candidates who are furthest to the left? What gets left out when they’re gone?

Of course the day after Kucinich berated Koppel for not treating him as a serious candidate, he went on a date selected for him by a political website, with the tv cameras rolling.

In Britain, a Labour MP has also been using the internet to trawl for dates. Chris Bryant MP appeared in underwear on the site and declared that he enjoys “a good long fuck.” The site is...wait for it...gaydar.co.uk.

Italy bans fertility treatment and egg and sperm donation for gays, single people and older women, and makes several other decisions about fertility treatments that are none of the state’s business. Italy lacked virtually any regulation of such matters precisely because it is a Catholic country, and the Church fought any law that didn’t follow its orders precisely.

40% of the Iraqis the US was training for the new Iraqi army have quit, because they weren’t paid enough. I wonder who they’ll be selling that training to?

In his dissent to the decision upholding McCain-Feingold campaign finance rules, Scalia wrote, “The premise of the First Amendment is that the American people are neither sheep nor fools, and hence fully capable of considering both the substance of the speech presented to them and its proximate and ultimate source.” Is that what the premise of the 1st Amendment is? Boy, that is SO off-base.

The majority of the Supes took the position that issue ads and soft money constituted corruption, rather than speech.

Speaking of corruption, Bush responded to questions about the illegality in international law of his attempts to use contracts in Iraq to reward his supporters with what he evidently thought was a joke: “International law? I'd better call my lawyer.” He explained carefully, like someone explaining to idiots something so obvious it didn’t need explanation, that only companies whose home countries had sacrificed some 18-year olds (“friendly coalition folks risk their lives”) deserved to charge $2.64 to import a gallon of gas, even though none of the executives of those companies were related to those 18-year olds.

Wednesday, December 10, 2003

On the table

LA Times: “Retreating from two central campaign promises that helped make him governor, Arnold Schwarzenegger on Tuesday dropped his personal "guarantee" that cities and counties would be compensated for billions in lost car-tax revenue and reversed his pledge to safeguard spending for public schools.” It’s official, he has now broken every promise he ever made in political life, and all within one month of taking office. During the elections he said that education cuts would be over his dead body. So when his spokesmodel said that everything was on the table....

Name in the News: president of Friends of Animals in Darien, CT: Priscilla Feral.

More Fun Facts to Learn and Then Instantly Forget: Nicholas Kristof writes in the NYT that no US company makes bras.

Did you know the US has a Special Envoy for Holocaust Issues? Name of, ahem, Edward O’Donnell. Because you wouldn’t want a Special Envoy for Holocaust Issues who couldn’t get into the same country club as Dubya. No, wait, that doesn’t work--they probably don’t let in Irish either. Anyway, he says that the anti-Americans in Europe are all anti-semites.

In the London production of The Producers, Richard Dreyfuss is doing the Zero Mostel role. Could work.

Switzerland’s governing coalition gives in to the far right’s blackmail and lets its chairman into the cabinet.

Creepy Christian children’s site. Scroll down to “Habu’s Corner.” And below that, it asks the question, “What should you do if you find an Atheist?”

Senator Paul Simon dies. Every obit feels obligated to mention his funny little bow ties, none mention his really weird ears.

Tuesday, December 09, 2003

Very, very forceful. Very.

I
ndy headline: “Cannibal Denies Sexual Motive.” Oh good, so it’s not like he’s some sort of pervert, then.

Seymour Hersh on the US’s use of Operation Phoenix tactics in Iraq, secretly advised by Israel. “Preemptive manhunting,” indeed.

Bush tells Taiwan not to “provoke” China by holding a referendum asking it to stop pointing quite so many missiles at the “province.” Trust Bush to see things from the bully’s perspective. Taiwan did not immediately respond that it would not take advice from a renegade British colony. Amusingly, Bush criticized Taiwan’s actions as “unilateral.” Do as we say, not as we do. He didn’t actually mention the proposed referenda on missiles and sovereignty, because that would make explicit his rejection of the right of self-determination by the Taiwanese--in the same way that PM Wen talked about separatism under the “signboard of democracy”--but instead personalized his criticism against the “leader” of Taiwan.

Bush is buying into China’s representation of itself as so hyper-sensitive that it will go ape-shit if it doesn’t get its way all the time, in every excruciatingly explicit detail--no doubt the reason Bush couldn’t bring himself to use the Taiwanese president’s actual name in front of the Chinese prime minister. That princess and the pea thing has worked pretty well for China in getting other countries, especially the US, not to “provoke” it. According to White House officials, Bush was “very, very forceful” in warning off China from attacking Taiwan--in private; those who saw the public performance noted that Wen said that Bush opposed Taiwanese independence, which is not supposed to be US policy.

Repulsively, Wen cited Abraham Lincoln and the Civil War in support of his position.

Bush said, and I’m pretty sure these are the exact words he’s used before, “The United States policy is one China.” What’s that, a Zen koan? There are words missing from that sentence, without which it’s close to meaningless: US policy is (that there is) one China; US policy is (that there should be just) one China...

Governor Ahhnuld has decided not to investigate himself for groping women after all. Seems it isn’t necessary after all because “the people have spoken.” They’ve said “Ouch, stop pinching my ass.”

William Saletan points out that when Al Gore was “trailing in the Florida recount, [he] urged the nation to wait until all the votes were tallied,” but his endorsement of Dean is intended to short-circuit a democratic process that hasn’t even started yet.

Some are portraying Gore’s choice of Dean over Lieberman as a sign that Gore has moved left. Possibly, but let’s take him at his own words, from today: “All of us need to get behind the strongest candidate.” Pure cynicism. Indeed, he told the other candidates to shut up and stop criticizing Dean. “We can’t afford to be divided.” In other words, the great Al Gore has had his say, lesser mortals should now desist from expressing their views. If the other candidates took that advice, tonight’s debate must have been as dull as it is possible for any such event to be, unless of course Al Gore participated--that would make it duller. Arguably, Saletan’s condemnation of Gore for opening his mouth is the mirror image of Gore’s advice to the other candidates to shut up and slink away. And everyone imputes to Gore way more influence in the real world than he actually has.

I’m using more dashes and fewer parentheses today. Have you noticed?

From AP: “The Pentagon has formally barred companies from countries opposed to the Iraq war from bidding on $18.6 billion worth of reconstruction contracts.” The policy is in a memo from Paul Wolfowitz, which says it “is necessary for the protection of the essential security interests of the United States.” How does excluding Canadian companies protect US security, precisely?

Monday, December 08, 2003

A moot point

Something to think about re prescription drugs: they don’t work. A VP at GlaxoSmithKline admits that "The vast majority of drugs - more than 90 per cent - only work in 30 or 50 per cent of the people."

John Kerry’s campaign is pronounced dead because he used the “F word” in an interview in Rolling Stone: “Did I expect George Bush to fuck it up as badly as he did? I don’t think anybody did.”

Andrew Card on CNN today (where he said that he was very, very disappointed with Mr. Kerry’s language) said that the question of whether the US went to war with Iraq based on faulty intelligence was “a moot point” (because evidently Saddam was a bad, bad person)(who knew?).

I hate it when the funny news stories have some importance when you look past the first paragraph. Here is that first paragraph, from a Post story: “H. James Towey, director of the White House's Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives, has stirred up a pot of trouble by suggesting that pagans don't care about the poor.” Asked whether such groups should get federal funding, Towey says “Once you make it clear to any applicant that public money must go to public purposes and can't be used to promote ideology, the fringe groups lose interest. Helping the poor is tough work, and only those with loving hearts seem drawn to it.” In other words, the government will decide which religions have loving hearts, and which are fringe groups. Also, the article points out that many pagan groups are deeply involved yadda yadda yadda.

Saturday, December 06, 2003

Aggressive headscarves

The officials overseeing Sunday’s Russian parliamentary elections are under the authority of the KGB. There are already signs of massive fraud, but it doesn’t matter. What I said here during the last Russian election still holds: this is another non-issues election campaign. Putin’s party literally lacks a platform. A vote for it is a vote for fill in the blank, and that is not representative democracy but electoral dictatorship (and I only use the word electoral because I think Putin would win even without stealing the election). Also, access to the media for opposition parties is nill.

And there is a terrorist attack blamed on the Chechens, just as there is before every Russian election in which Putin is involved. Coincidence, I’m sure.

FORGIVE, FORGET: Bush appoints James Baker to lead the effort to restructure Iraq’s debt, which means get other nations to ignore that country’s past debts, just like Baker was chosen in 2000 to get the courts to ignore the results of the presidential elections. (Did that symmetry work? I think it sounded better in my head than it does on screen.) Iraq owes between $200 and 400 billion. The US also likes to forget how much money it owes, (given the boom in national debt begun by Reagan’s Treasury secretary, one James Baker) as Paul Krugman points out in a good NYT column (but for the hell of it, I’m linking to Pravda).

Joshua Marshall points out that Baker has way too many business links to Saudi Arabia for this to be a good appointment.

Chirac says Islamic headscarves are a kind of aggression. “We cannot accept ostentatious displays, of whatever sort, of religious proselytising.” If you’ve already seen this story, you might have noticed that he made these statements in Tunisia, and wondered about the choice of location. In fact, they are illegal in Tunisia.

“A woman who drove over a McDonald's manager, causing her serious internal injuries in a row over a cheeseburger, has been jailed for 10 years. Waynetta Nolan, 37, flew into a rage after she was refused mayonnaise in Houston, Texas.”

From AP: “Democrat John F. Kerry on Friday challenged the notion that questioning President Bush is unpatriotic and defended his right to criticize, saying he left "some blood on a battlefield that President Bush never left anywhere."” Well he did choke on a pretzel once. I’m getting sick of Kerry using military service in a stupid war, that even he admits was a stupid war, as if it was a qualification for anything.

Some newly declassified State Dept papers from the 1970s implicate Kissinger even more deeply in the atrocities in Chile, that he in fact gave an explicit green light. Why nothing in the NY Times or, I think, the Post? Instead, I give you the Guardian, and the Miami Herald.



The soldiers who had Thanksgiving with the Turkey in Chief were actually screened by their commanding officers.

Maybe "terror socks of death" would be more frightening. Or not.

I’m sorry, Daily Telegraph, it is impossible to take this headline seriously: “Terror Socks Seized.”

An article elsewhere in the Telegraph on Nigerian fraudsters says that their business is, sadly, declining. It confirms something I’d always suspected, that the spelling and grammar mistakes were mostly deliberate, to convince people they were dealing with uneducated Africans.

How big is the illegal trafficking in human organs? An Israeli was just fined c.$750 in South Africa, with no jail time, for having an illegal kidney transplant there. Basically just sales tax. Israelis are big in this market, in part because their insurance companies, unlike those in any other country, are allowed to pay for black market organs.

NY Times article on the Israeli methods now being used by US forces in Iraq: villages sealed off, punishment house demolitions, kidnappings of relatives of suspected guerillas, etc. I like this detail: the i.d. cards those in the sealed villages have to carry are in English only. And this priceless quote: “"With a heavy dose of fear and violence, and a lot of money for projects, I think we can convince these people that we are here to help them," Colonel Sassaman said.”

The NY Times catches up to an overlooked detail in the Medicare bill: private Medicap policies covering drugs will be banned. Because they believe that old sick people must be forced to pay something when they are stupid enough to be both old and sick, so that they won’t overuse medical services. Nor will they be allowed to have a policy that will pay for drugs not on the government list of favored drugs.

Friday, December 05, 2003

Oh the smelly humanity

AP headline: “Goodyear Blimp Crashes into Fertilizer Pile, Injures One.”

Good article on border control. In the last decade, at least 2,500 Mexicans died trying to cross through deserts or mountains, the obvious but presumably unintended consequence of making it harder to cross at safer places. In the Berlin Wall’s entire history, only 287 people died trying to cross it. Enforcement that would actually impact businesses has declined, even from 2000 when a total of 178 American employers were fined for employing illegal aliens. Well, to be fair, how do we know that more than 178 American employers even hired illegal aliens, right? The article mentions a border patrol unit comprised entirely of Native Americans, called the Irony Brigade, sorry, the Shadow Wolves.

Bush has indeed lifted steel tariffs, as of 10 minutes from now, as I write. Um, since when is the power to set tariffs held by the executive branch, anyway? The White House statement on this decision is hilarious. I said on Monday that they’d be declaring victory, that the tariffs had done their job, but they’ve actually gone so far beyond that, actually pretending that the decision had absolutely nothing to do with the WTO decision or the imminent imposition of retaliatory tariffs by the EU, that the timing is just a big coincidence. They’re not even attempting to make their lies plausible anymore. And they’re so committed to doing everything unilaterally that they wouldn’t even spin it as respecting the concerns of our allies in the war on terror. Read it if you don’t believe me.

Another reason the US doesn’t care that much about increased poppy production in Afghanistan: that heroine goes to Europe, not to the US.

B-1 Bob is back: Bob Dornan is talking about running for Congress against Dana Rohrabacher. Boy, that could be fun.

Thursday, December 04, 2003

Endomorphically endowed

The US has decided that 5 Iraqi political parties (including Chalabi’s, and the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq) can have their own armed militias/death squads, subject to some minor conditions that won’t mean a thing on the ground. ‘Cuz the warlord thing is working out so well for us in Afghanistan.

Although to be fair, the biggest Afghan warlord, Gen. Dostum, has supposedly just agreed to hand in his heavy weapons, in exchange for absolute power in the north, a seat in the Cabinet and millions of dollars of international aid.

Of course most of what the world community sends to Afghanistan is in exchange for the now plentiful poppy. A Guardian columnist notes that the US has suddenly gotten interested again in that harvest. “The reason for the belated concern is the fear that it is funding the wrong warriors - the resurgent jihadis and the Taliban.”

If you like freak shows (and who doesn’t?), you should be following the trial in Germany of the man who posted on the Internet asking for volunteers to be killed and eaten. Indy headline: “Cannibal Says He Was Lonely and Dreamt of 'Brother' to Disembowel.” The Times has “Eaten by a Thoroughly Modern Cannibal.”

Russia has decided to kill the Kyoto Accord, rather than simply ratify it and then break the rules and fail to meet the targets, like everyone else.

Something I just heard that may not be wrong just because I read it on the Internet: the Israeli “wall” will not only put 10% of West Bank land on the Israeli side, but 50% of the water.

The Cincinnati coroner rules the beating death of the 400-pound guy by the police a homicide.

Gerhard Schröder is in China, calling for the EU to resume arms sales to that country, which has been under embargo since Tiananmen Square. Of course it was only last week that China threatened to go to war with Taiwan if it holds a referendum on independence. France also backs arms sales, but when doesn’t it?

Polls show that Bush’s Thanksgiving stunt earned him 5 points in the polls.

Melvyn Bragg, author of The Adventure of English 500AD-2000, has pointed out that every word of Churchill’s "We shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills: we shall never surrender." is from the Old English except for “surrender,” which is French.

(Attention, people who googled in looking for a sound clip of the Churchill speech: there's one here, a zip file.)

13-day old kid most likely to need major analysis: “ a Palestinian baby who was born with a birthmark on his face that bears a striking likeness to the name of his uncle, Ala, right, a Hamas militant killed by Israeli soldiers after he allegedly masterminded a suicide bombing. Palestinians in the West Bank are travelling in droves to Bethlehem to pay homage to the 13-day-old infant, also named Ala. His family is convinced that the mark is a divine message of support for the Palestinian struggle against Israel.”

Remember Thailand’s war on drugs? Like the US, they stopped counting dead bodies on that one when it got embarrassingly high, 10 months ago, which I’m embarrassed to say is also the last time I mentioned it here. Anyway, they’ve declared victory, with a death toll of 2,300, and 52,364 of the usual suspects rounded up.

Every year the Literary Review, in London, sponsors a Bad Sex Prize for the worst sex scenes in literature (astonishingly, I quote from the winner every single year). This year’s was one by an Indian author, Aniruddha Bahal, and here’s the thing: his publishers flew him from Delhi to London to accept the prize.

From the Guardian: “Columnist and former Today programme editor Rod Liddle was almost struck out on the grounds that his sex scenes were actually rather well done, but his novel Too Beautiful for You, ("after a modicum of congenial thrusting, she came with the exhilarating whoops and pant-hoots of a troop of Rhesus monkeys") was reinstated after he said the judges were unqualified, since nobody on the Literary Review had had sex since 1936, in Abyssinia.”

The Times describes the winning passage as “too excruciating for a family newspaper.” So I got it from the Guardian: “She's taking off her blouse. It's on the floor. Her breasts are placards for the endomorphically endowed. In spite of yourself a soft whistle of air escapes you. She's taking off her trousers now. They are a heap on the floor. Her panties are white and translucent. You can see the dark hair sticking to them inside. There's a design as well. You gasp.

'What's that?' you ask. You see a designer pussy. Hair razored and ordered in the shape of a swastika. The Aryan denominator..."

Oh yeah, that’s some bad sex all right.

Tuesday, December 02, 2003

Full of giblets


Governor Ahhnuld says he now understands what people who warned him that the budget would require hard choices meant. Oh sure, NOW he figures out how unqualified and unprepared he is.

Speaking of things it would be better to have planned in advance, The Daily Show suggested that Bush’s visit to Iraq might have some lessons for the war in Iraq. “For instance, when it comes to planning...do some. And lesson two of the Thanksgiving trip - when it comes to an exit strategy...have one.” Bush knew when he was leaving, and how he was leaving: by 2:00, and full of giblets.

Anyway, California. Though I’m pretty sure Arnie promised to fix the deficit entirely by opening the books and finding tens of billions of dollars of waste, or maybe two pages inadvertently stuck together, oddly enough there’s damned little talk of that now. He does however, want a mandatory spending cap, with extra powers for the governor to make budget cuts entirely on his own (which could be overturned by 2/3 of the Lege, but c’mon) if during the middle of a year the state starts running a deficit.

A Ha’aretz article looks at a government pamphlet on democracy, which fails to mention Palestinians, but does say that as a Jewish democratic state, which it defines by saying that Israel “accepts every Jew wherever he is and respects the values of
Jewish culture and heritage”. Something to remember the next time someone says that Israel is the only democracy in the Middle East.

One reason the military tribunals haven’t begun is that the first group of defense lawyers recruited by the Pentagon balked at the ground-rules, and were promptly fired.

From his jail cell in the Hague, Milosevic will run for the Serb parliament. He can do that because he hasn’t been convicted yet, because it’s only, what, the 3rd year of his trial, 8th year? 73rd year?

And Prince Alexander II wants to see monarchy restored. The prince was born in 1945, the year the monarchy was abolished. He was born in Claridge’s hotel in London. Problem was that a Yugoslav monarch had to be born on Yugoslav soil, so Churchill declared suite 212 of Claridge’s to be Yugoslav territory. No word on whether it still is.

The Thai prime minister plans to ban MPs from his party having mistresses or going to brothels. There is a mass revolt. The party’s name is Thai Rak Thai (Thais Love Thais).

The new head of Australia’s Labor Party is a man who called Bush “the most incompetent and dangerous president in living memory” and John Howard an “arse licker,” and once broke a taxi driver’s arm in a dispute over what was the fastest route.

NY Times: “The federal official who runs Medicare and was intimately involved in drafting legislation to overhaul the program is the object of a bidding war among five firms hoping to hire him to advise clients affected by the measure.” Thomas Scully got an ethics waiver from the DHS (or is that an ethics bypass?).

A French scientist withdrew his life savings from the bank, about $1/4 million, set it on fire, then tried to commit suicide by taking pills. Unfortunately, his neighbors saw the smoke, called the fire department, and now he is alive and broke.

Monday, December 01, 2003

Calm as a Belgian

The 46 killed yesterday are now 54, except there are no actual bodies, they just made it up based on what US soldiers said they’d done. Locals say 8. The commander opines that the remaining guerillas must have carried off the 54 dead bodies. Oh yeah, that’s believable: under heavy fire, they carried 54 corpses (plus presumably all of their wounded), in, what, wheelbarrows? stretchers? and got them right out of the area, so that none could be found.

And of course most of the dead “guerillas” turned out to include an awful lot of civilians, whoever was around when US soldiers started shooting in all directions. Who says Iraq isn’t like Vietnam?

And in this way too: “Sgt Jones said when the two convoys had driven into Samarra on Sunday, the city centre was a virtual ghost town, suggesting that the civilian population knew the ambushes were about to happen.”

There was a tribute to the victims of Franco (still dead) in Spain’s parliament building. The right-wing ruling party boycotted the event because it reopened old wounds and “smelt of mothballs.”

Haven’t seen it, but there is a film of Cincinnati police beating a black man to death. They say it was self-defense. He was 400 pounds. Says the head of the Fraternal Order of Police (FOP!!), "In that video, what did these officers do wrong?" Uh, beat a guy to death? Beat a guy after he was lying on the ground? And why were they equipped with steel clubs, anyway?

The Lithuanian parliament is about to impeach the president, who evidently has Russian mafia ties. He says he won’t leave even if impeached, adding “I am as calm as a Belgian.”

Which is pretty fucking calm.

George Monbiot gives an outline of how badly we’re screwed, given the taboo fact that oil is running out.

Alessandra Mussolini, Benito’s granddaughter and former stripper, quit the neo-post-fascist party after its leader said bad things about the Upside Down One, and has formed her own party, called
Freedom of Action. It will be“futuristic and feminist”.

And the White House evidently made up a story about a BA pilot recognizing Air Force One.

A great two weeks (for those who survived them)

Gen. Sanchez’s words, the only ones quoted anyway, were that there had been “a great two weeks for the coalition.” In addition to the deaths I mentioned in my last, the Resistance killed some South Koreans and a Colombian.

Today, the US responds by killing 46 Iraqis, and what’s interesting about that is that the Pentagon has released a body count, possibly the first one.

Speaking of body counts, let’s see if you can catch the mistake in this sentence in a Times (London) story: “November was by far the bloodiest month since the invasion”. That’s right: it was only the bloodiest month FOR AMERICANS (79 dead, 105 for the COW as a whole). So the Pentagon was right: if dead Iraqis aren’t counted, dead Iraqis don’t count.

The Times notes that the American media, unlike the British, are not covering Neil Bush’s admissions about having sex with prostitutes. Neil, by the way, also has a consulting “job” with New Bridge, which uses R contacts to secure contracts in Iraq for its clients.

The US is evidently finally willing to admit that some of those locked up without trial in Guantanamo for the last two years were simply nobodies kidnapped by Afghan war lords and such for the reward money. Time magazine says the government is just waiting for a “politically propitious time.” Christmas Day? And the San Jose Mercury (link below) says that they’re still holding 3 children. Excuse me, “juvenile enemy combatants.” They are sometimes given a “time-out,” the story says. Yeah, two years and counting. They are of course interrogated, but no more than 16 hours a day, like the other prisoners, so that’s ok then.

Evidently the Bushies are going to give up their illegal steel tariffs, right before the EU was set to retaliate against products from marginal states. They’re going to pretend that the tariff had succeeded in protecting the steel industry while it restructured itself, so we didn’t need it anymore anyway. In the 20 months the tariffs have been in place, I have yet to see a news story that gives me the most basic information necessary to understand how this works. How much did steel imports decline? How much did the federal government collect by levying this illegal tariff, and do they get to keep it, and if they could just do that for 20 months, well after the WTO ruled it illegal, and give in right before sanctions were due to start, doesn’t that mean there is no down-side to this lawlessness?

Sunday, November 30, 2003

Other expertized advices

Afghanistan has resumed enforcing an old Taliban law against married women (girls) going to high school. They might give the other girls the low-down about s-e-x. Thousands have been expelled.

Neil Bush’s contract with Grace Semiconductors specified that he provide them business strategies, information and “other expertized advices.” Oh yeah, that’s a Bush.

The British Yellow Pages have decided to scrap the category “sword makers.” Responds one sword maker, “I suppose it’s been coming for years. We’ve been going downhill since the 19th century when duelling was made illegal.”

Northern Irish elections gave a typically bloody-minded result, with parties on both extremes surpassing the moderates. Ian Paisley is happy, and that is never a good thing. The SDLP is thinking about giving up altogether and becoming a branch of a southern Irish party.

A Post story about something I’ve mentioned before, the growing phenomenon of politicians, including the chairs of the Senate and House armed services committees, defending that lt. col. who threatened to murder an Iraqi POW in order to scare him into providing information (the people who defend him don’t admit that he threatened to kill the POW, but what message is shooting off a gun next to his head intended to convey?).

There’s also a piece here and in the NY Times either Saturday or Sunday, which convey the consensus that Bush’s latest plan to hand over power to Iraq by June, is deader’n a dodo. What’d that take, two weeks? Which is still longer than most of our strategies in Iraq have lasted, so well done.

The astonishing thing is not the 7 Spaniards and 2 Japanese and 2 Americans killed in Iraq a few hours after General Sanchez bragged that attacks were down, it’s that yet another US official made yet another stupid pollyannaish claim that was sure to be followed by some sort of rocket attack, because they all are. (I’d have used Sanchez’s exact words, but they are to be found nowhere, which to my mind is another example of the press sparing such jackasses the embarrassment they have earned.)

By the way, I spent many emails last spring making a running joke of the absence of Iraqis dancing in the streets to greet our troops, as we were promised. From today’s LA Times: “Video footage from the scene, broadcast throughout the Arab world, showed rejoicing youths dancing alongside the burned remains of the four-wheel-drive vehicles. Many of the celebrants brandished parts of the vehicles.” (You can tell it’s a Los Angeles reporter when he makes more of a dead motor vehicle than a dead person. They do love their cars.) Anyway, dancing, finally. I’d have made a comment about how they just needed the right lyrics, but again, the newspapers didn’t give Sanchez’s exact words.

Thursday, November 27, 2003

The turkey has landed


9:47 pm a racoon scratched at the door. I did not share my humble repast with it, nor teach it how to plant maize so that it might survive the difficult winter ahead, but rather chased it off, as the Indians might have been well advised to do with the Puritans.

A LITTLE TOUCH OF MORON IN THE NIGHT: Dubya makes a surprise Thanksgiving visit to the troops in Iraq. Haven’t they suffered enough?

Oo, the Indy headline is The Turkey Has Landed. Less literary than mine, but I like it.

Bush told the troops, “We did not charge hundreds of miles through the heart of Iraq, pay a bitter cost of casualties, defeat a ruthless dictator and liberate 25 million people only to retreat before a band of thugs and assassins.” We? You just came for dinner. The only bitter cost you paid was a little jet lag.

Bush was visiting the 82nd Airborne, which the Times points out has a less than stellar record, having killed 18 unarmed protesters in Fallujah in April and 8 Iraqi police and a Jordanian guard in September. So don’t fault Bush for not venturing out of the airport: just eating with these guys must be pretty dangerous. I imagine they only manage to get the fork into their mouths about half the time, while stabbing themselves and each other repeatedly. Probably at the end of every meal, three or four have to be evacuated with severe mashed potato-related injuries.

(Later: the Guardian adds that yesterday an Iraqi general died while being “interrogated” by the 82nd.)

Sharon reneges on his promise to Bush to dismantle settlement outposts. Evidently some of them are necessary for “security.” You know, the amount of shit done in the name of “security” this year throughout the world may have reached some sort of record.

The Chinese are setting Mao’s Two Musts to rap music. I think that’s called sampling. The Two Musts are “to preserve modesty and prudence and to preserve the style of plain living and hard struggle.” Oh, sorry, that’s now “to preserve modesty and prudence and to preserve the style of plain living and hard struggle, bitch.”

While looking for more Neil Bush tidbits (and found one: one of his businesses outsourced to Mexico; his ex-wife’s lawyer asked him if that wasn’t an example of Ross Perot’s giant sucking sound), I came across a German site that says Bush Sr and John Hinckley’s father were in business together, and that John’s brother and Neil were scheduled to have dinner the day after John tried to kill Reagan. That’s almost too weird to be true.

Wednesday, November 26, 2003

Fatwas, Nixonburgers, the King Herod of the Labour Party, the orgasmotran, and turkey and gravy flavored soda

A fascinating, must-read (but long), WaPo article on how the US’s plans to impose a constitution of our making on Iraq failed. Hint: fatwa.

As punishment for the Wall, Israel’s loan guarantees will be cut slightly. Actually outright grants won’t be cut at all, and the actual effect on the Israeli budget may amount to at most a couple million. In other words, this was not a punishment intended to change their behaviour or be anything other than cosmetic.

Another Neil Bush detail: in December 2001 Jiang Zemin threw him a private dinner, at which Jiang “serenaded him with a military song.” I think Neil would have preferred a hooker. Speaking of presidential brothers, I of course remember Billy Beer, but a restaurant chain named “Nixonburger”?

Today was the state opening of Parliament. The Queen made a mistake reading the speech, referring to the National Health Service as the National Hunt. That’s one way to cut medical costs. One of the bills Labour wants is to force asylum-seekers to leave the country by eliminating their benefits, and taking their children from them (for their own good of course, because their parents would no longer be getting benefits, you see). Writes Home Secretary David Blunkett, “I have no desire to take children from parents and put them in care unless it is an absolute last resort.” Oh well, if it’s the absolute last resort, that’s ok then. He adds, “I did not come into politics to be the King Herod of the Labour party.” And yet...

In Britain, an 80-year old woman was writing her will when burglars broke in. She fought them off with a World War I ceremonial sword.

Shevardnadze says that the West betrayed him after he “rescued the world” from the brink of nuclear armageddon by ending the Cold War. Evidently he thinks he should have been allowed to keep a country as, you know, a tip.

An unlikely story: “Trials of an implant that promises to give women an orgasm at the push of a button have stalled because of a lack of volunteers to test it.”

The town of Corleone, Sicily, is thinking of changing its name. Possibly to Soprano.

Turkey and gravy flavored soda.

The LA Times recently ran a story I missed on Wal-Mart. Today a columnist, Steve Lopez, wonders, why does a polo shirt cost $8.63? “Because of the way Wal-Mart does business in America and beyond: A. Your Uncle Ed's factory went under and he's on the dole,
B. A couple dozen merchants got rocked by the ripple effect,
C. A nail was driven into the coffin that used to be a quaint downtown,
D. That Honduran mom made $7 for 10 hours of toil,
E. A Chinese company is probably plotting to underbid the Hondurans,
F. Wal-Mart execs padded their mega-million-dollar portfolios,
G. And our taxes are going up because Wal-Mart employees who can't afford health insurance are dragging themselves into the county emergency room.

If that's the cost to you and me and everyone else, that polo shirt ought to be $5.99 and not a penny more, or we're being seriously ripped off.” He thinks the woman in the Honduran sweatshop is not pulling her weight.

Tuesday, November 25, 2003

I got the inside scoop on sea urchin longevity right here

Scandinavia, you gotta love it: Norway’s vehicle registration dept has refused to register the prime minister’s new bomb-proof car, because it is too heavy, increasing its stopping distance.

On the other hand, a Sydney, Australia airport screener insisted on frisking the New Zealand prime minister, even after being told who she was.

Heh heh heh: “A Ku Klux Klan member was badly wounded when a bullet fired in the air during an initiation ceremony in Tennessee came down and hit him in the head. Gregory Freeman, 45, was charged with aggravated assault and reckless endangerment after Jeffery Murr, 24, was left critically ill. About 10 people had gathered for the ceremony. The initiate was blindfolded, tied with a noose to a tree and shot with paintball guns as Freeman fired a pistol.”

From the Department of Fun Facts to Learn and Then Instantly Forget: Sea urchins can live for 200 years.

I’m undecided whether to consider the events in Georgia to be an American-backed coup or not. Many Georgians are none too sure either. Certainly Russia, which has been funding separatist movements, and the US, are in competition for “influence” in Georgia. And both have troops stationed there. The US will pay for the new parliamentary elections, in 45 days. Today the new prime minister phoned BP and the UN--quite possibly in that order.

The Iraqi puppet government--you know, I’m going to stop calling them that, since Bremer may well be Chalabi’s puppet at this point--has banned the Arab news network Al-Arabiya for playing a tape supposedly from Saddam, and has been removing imams for preaching stuff the Government Formerly Known as Puppet doesn’t like.

Holy Joe Lieberman whines: “I always thought we Democrats were the party of inclusion, not exclusion.” He’s not contesting Iowa, so he decided to skip the debate there, then changed his mind and bitched when they wouldn’t let him. Or maybe they just forgot he was still running.

Franco's unsheathed sword, if you know what I mean

Evidently those soldiers didn’t have their throats cut or beaten with concrete blocks, if the army is to be believed.

Bush meets (away from cameras) with the families of soldiers killed in Iraq and offers his prayers, in perhaps the crappiest trade of all time.

The mother of one dead soldier, not at that event, helpfully pointed out that Bush could have dropped by when he was recently in her state, SC, for a fundraiser. If the D’s had any guts, they’d provide a map to the nearest families of dead soldiers for every future Bush fundraiser.

Governor Ahhnuld has cut the car tax increase. And proposed cutting payments to Medical doctors 10%, which should drive many of them out of the program, ending homecare for the disabled, blind & old, forcing some of those into homes, freezing enrollment in programs that had been and should be entitlements, like aid for the developmentally disabled, etc etc. Oh, and education will be cut; one of the maybe three explicit promises he ever made when campaigning was that it wouldn’t be. And all that accounts for just half of the car tax increase. Good to have those priorities straight.

General Tommy Franks says that if WMDs are ever used against America, democracy and the Constitution will be destroyed. He said this in an interview with Cigar Aficionado magazine.

I guess I knew this story was coming: “Iraqi Donkeys Suffer under U.S. Suspicion”.

On the other hand, the Indian government has set up a holiday camp for elephants.

In the small print of the latest defense appropriation act was money to develop a new nuclear weapon, designed for “bunker-busting.”

A book just out in Spain, The History They Taught Us, 1937-75, is about history books in the Franco years. Evidently Franco himself was a “Herculean hero of robust constitution,” who “came down to Earth in an iron bird to fight the dragon (of communism) with his unsheathed sword.” Jews drink the blood of Christians (well, that’s true. I find it’s quite delicious with a little chocolate syrup). The first thing Franco did was fire 50,000 teachers and replace them with Falangists.

In more recent news, Paul Bremer fired 28,000 Iraqi teachers....

Mayhem in the Middle East.

There’s been no news of Neil Bush for a while. Now there is. As expected, his divorce is stirring up all sorts of stuff. Neil admits to having had sex with women during “business” trips to Thailand and Hong Kong. He says that they just showed up at his door and presumably he just fucked them to be polite (although they may just have been asking if he needed more towels). From the deposition:
Lawyer: Mr. Bush, you have to admit it's a pretty remarkable thing for a man just to go to a hotel room door and open it and have a woman standing there and have sex with her.

Bush: It was very unusual.
He denies knowing that the women were prostitutes, or paying them. Also, he’s getting $2m from a Chinese semiconductor firm--a field about which he knows nothing--in association with the son of Jiang Zemin. Haven’t heard more about the story a few weeks ago that the president of Taiwan paid $1m to meet Neil.

Monday, November 24, 2003

A subtle hint in Mosul

The Post says that a good chunk of the money allocated for “homeland security” was spent on anything but that, in part because there are no particular standards for how locals spend the windfall, and in part because it was designed as pork, with money not going to likely terrorism targets, but based on population (i.e., everyone gets something for their district).

The Israeli government has been trying to label Europe anti-semitic lately. Sharon says, in an interview that’s rather badly timed considering that he’s currently hosting the leader of Italy’s post-fascist party, that the problem is an “ever stronger Muslim presence in Europe.” When it was suggested to him that he tends to label legitimate criticism of Israel as anti-Semitic, he said that “These days to conduct an anti-Semite policy is not a popular thing, so the anti-Semites bundle their policies in with the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.” And criticizing his use of excessive force would be to deprive Israel of the right of self-defense, which is a danger to Jews.

At the risk of being labeled an anti-Semite: Ariel Sharon is a prick.

Shevardnadze is out. “I realised that what is happening may end with spilled blood if I use my rights.” Patrick Cockburn’s excellent story says that Georgia had collapsed into poverty, with many parts of it having essentially seceded. Which explains why the US took the position it did: Shevvy wasn’t able to keep his country stable enough for our pipeline purposes. The US has already recognized the new government, which means I may have to rethink considering the ouster a good thing. Other link.

Croat nationalists have won that country’s parliamentary elections (Later: or possibly not an outright victory). Nationalism has also significantly increased in the last Bosnian elections, and in the Serb presidential elections (which were invalidated by low turnout). Fortunately, nationalism in the Balkans usually just involves singing folksongs.

Two US soldiers were killed by guerillas in Mosul. Immediately, a crowd went through their pockets, smashed their bodies and their car with concrete blocks, stabbed them, slit their throats, and generally, ya know, welcomed them as liberators, just like Dick Cheney promised.

Saturday, November 22, 2003

That night, they tried some things they had never done before

According to the Independent, when Bush met families of dead British soldiers, a three-year old told him “My daddy is up in heaven.” I have no idea how the families were chosen, but to Britain’s credit, one were of a soldier killed by friendly fire.

Congress passed a Medicare bill, and may pass an energy bill, with provisions that could not be passed in a functioning representative democracy: the MTBE immunity, the ban on bargaining to reduce drug costs. On the other hand, there’s ethanol, which takes more energy to produce than it gives off, which is representative democracy at its worst. And honestly, when you first heard about the “donut hole” in the drugs benefit, months ago, did you imagine it would still be in the final bill? They managed to win the vote by the now familiar Republican principle that if the other side wins, it doesn’t count. In this case, they simply kept the vote open for 3 hours while they twisted arms (no vote in the House has ever gone over 90 minutes before, 15 is standard), and members of the executive branch breached protocol by going onto the floor to break legs. They don’t get to bitch about D’s filibustering when they have so little respect for the rules themselves. Also, and the Post reporter should be lynched for writing this without more detail: “In the end, they switched two of the conservatives by telling them of a Democratic legislative plot that may have been either fictional or real.” Oh, ok, another Post article says the rumor is that Nancy Pelosi would revive a D. version via a discharge petition. Clear as mud.

Incidentally, every analysis of the Medicare bill fails to factor premiums in when describing the benefits. For example, rather than having 75% of drug costs after the deductible paid, the “benefit” ranges from being something like $420 worse off than with no coverage, to a maximum of 50%.

Means-testing is fairly minor, but it’s a terrible principle to introduce, and it will worsen over time.

Jimmy Carter has written a novel. With what for Jimmy Carter passes as a sex scene, presented here in its entirety: “That night, they tried some things they had never done before.”

Gee, I like strawberries, but I don’t like skin cancer...like strawberries, cancer not so much. What to do, what to do.

Georgia (the commie one) is going pear-shaped. Shevardnadze tried to inaugurate a parliament based on the seriously fraudulent elections held a few weeks ago. He was just chased out of parliament by peasants with pitchforks, and may come back with thugs on loan from a warlord or, hopefully, retreat to his new mansion in Germany, forever. Russia looks like staying out, ditto the US, despite or perhaps because our precious precious pipeline goes through Georgia.

Friday, November 21, 2003

What is responsible for that terrorist attack is terrorism

From Reuters: “The U.S-led interim rulers in Baghdad on Wednesday told companies seeking $18.7 billion in Iraq reconstruction contracts they should bring their own armed security guards to guard against escalating guerrilla attacks.” By what authority do private companies get to bring armed people into a foreign country?

Remember when the Israeli military released footage they claimed showed there were no civilians nearby when they launched missiles at a car, and it turned out that even the edited footage they released did show civilians, if you looked closely enough? It also turns out they lied about what sort of missile they used, which was larger and more indiscriminate, and may actually be a Flechette, which releases thousands of tiny darts over a large distance, and is illegal under international law, and if you guessed that therefore it was made in the USA, you were right. They also lied about what sort of helicopter they used, for reasons not yet clear.

And remember the British peace activist the Israelis shot in the head in April while trying to protect children from soldiers? He’s still brain dead. Israel was supposed to pay for the costs of repatriating him to Britain. They finally coughed up a check for a portion of the amount (without admitting liability, natch). It bounced.

Robert Fisk reminds me of something I’d noticed in Bush’s London speech and then forgot about: he called on Israel only to “freeze” settlements and dismantle “unauthorized outposts.” Fisk notes that Bush said the “heart of the matter” in the Middle East is “a viable Palestinian democracy,” but he failed to mention “occupation.” Of course this is a mirror of what he’s doing in Iraq. I’ll bet between now and the elections a year from now, Bush never uses the word occupation in any sentence.

What am I saying, of course he won’t, it’s a four-syllable word.

What Shrub did say: “What has caused the terrorist attack today in Turkey is not the president of the United States, is not the alliance between America and Britain. What is responsible for that terrorist attack is terrorism, are the terrorists.” His insight just takes your breath away, doesn’t it? Fisk again: “We have a kind of fatal incomprehension about those against whom we have gone to war; that they are living in caves, cut off from reality, striking blindly - "desperately" as Mr Bush would have us believe - as they realise that the free world is resolved to destroy them.” In fact, today’s bombings are about as stage-managed and calculated and not a lot less subtle than Bush prancing around that aircraft carrier or his trip to his favorite colony to visit the queen. Blair and Bush show off their alliance, protected by 14,000 cops; Al Qaida, or whomever, shows the consequence of that alliance by attacking British interests in some area where they aren’t so well protected.

That's a long story

Billmon on the reprehensible new Republican ad touting Bush’s “policy of pre-emptive self defense.” Make sure to read (or view) the ad, which is also on the link. The line I liked best was “Some are now attacking the president for attacking the terrorists.” Note the use of the word attacking two times, to equate legitimate criticism with assassinations, pre-emptive self defense (wars), and indefinite detention.

In Britain, Bush visited a “special” school. A 12-year old “special” student stumped him with a “special” question about Iraq. He said, “That’s a long story. I will have to tell you about that at another time.” The same student asked Blair about his heart difficulties (which we now know he lied about), and got the same answer.

Bush visited Tony Blurr’s constituency in Sedgefield, had the fish and chips (which he ate with his hands and dunked in ketchup), mushy peas, and the alcohol-free ale, in a 4-hour visit that cost County Durham £1 million for security. So there goes the health clinic. And so the visit to Britain, to celebrate the establishment of democracy by spending a lot of time with a hereditary monarch, comes to an end.

This Sunday, The Simpsons are going to England. Blair’s people worked very hard to make sure that no tapes of the episode reached Britain during the state visit. Tony Blair’s voice will appear, but not the Archbishop of Canterbury’s (yes, they asked him, he’s a fan, but he’s not stupid). And not Posh and Becks.

Remember those Japanese soldiers who never heard about the war ending? The Japanese government thinks there are some still out there in the Philippines and is going looking for them. An article in The Times on this also mentions a farmer in Honduras who fled into the jungle and hid for 32 years after the 1969 border war with El Salvador, which was over in four days.

The Post says that Evangelicals are upset that Bush said that Christians and Muslims worship the same god. It is, of course, ridiculously easy to upset Evangelicals, and a lot of fun.

Thursday, November 20, 2003

Duty sometimes requires the violent restraint of violent men

I haven’t mentioned the Canadian-Syrian dual national who the US pulled off a plane when he was changing planes in the US on the way home to Canada, and deported to Syria to be viciously tortured for 10 months, in yet another spit in the eye for Canada, not to mention the guy himself. The Post says that it was approved by the deputy attorney general, who said that returning him to Canada would be “prejudicial to the interests of the United States.” They told Syria he was Al Qaida, just to make sure he was tortured. The US said that it could deport that guy to Syria because it promised not to torture him. Washington Post (a day after the above link): “Spokesmen at the Justice Department and the CIA declined to comment on why they believed the Syrian assurances to be credible.” Although to be fair, the Post was asking questions of Justice and CIA spokesmen, who aren’t exactly the most credible sources themselves.

Turkey will allow a full five hours per week of tv & radio broadcasting in Kurdish. So generous.

I received a rather good Nigerian email scam today. This one purports to be from the mistress of the late Qusay Hussein.

AP headline: “CBS Pulls Michael Jackson Music Special.” Oh is that what they’re calling it now.

I mentioned yesterday a lt-colonel being investigated for hitting an Iraqi prisoner and shooting a gun next to his dead, threatening to kill him if he didn’t talk. I also mentioned that there is a movement to put him up for sainthood. For a hint of that, click here.

Robert Parry writes that while the Bushies all managed somehow to avoid Vietnam, many of them were involved in the 1980s in directing efforts against leftists in Central America. The piece is Guatemala-heavy, and a good reminder of the CIA-death squad connections of that period. I don’t think Parry really makes the case he is trying to make, that those experiences are shaping current Iraqi policy, but I think the case could be made.

Bush read out rather a good speech in Britain. In fact, I suspect a British ghostwriter. “The inhabitants of Iraq’s Baathist hell, with its lavish palaces and its torture chambers, with its massive statues and mass graves, do not miss their fugitive dictator.” He also cited Wilberforce, Lord Shaftesbury, Tyndale, Wesley and William Booth. Do you think they make an attempt to explain to him who these people were, or do they just put it in his hands and say “Read this. No, dummy, read it out loud.”? Doesn’t it risk making him look like the total stooge he is when he has to read speeches whose content is so obviously beyond him?

He also said that if we denied the Middle East the blessings of democracy imposed from the outside by overwhelming military force (I’m paraphrasing), it would “remain a place of stagnation and anger and violence for export.” Comment 1: So it only matters if they export their violence. Comment 2: How do you export stagnation? Comment 3: Just so long as their first export is still oil. He added that to say they were unready for having democracy imposed from the outside by overwhelming military force (I’m paraphrasing) was “pessimism and condescension and we should have none of it.” Yes, he went to England, England mind you, to speak out against condescension.

Behind him, just as in America, was a wall with words appearing over and over, in this case “United Kingdom.” Just in case the locals didn’t know what country they were in? Well, that must happen a lot. Bush always wears a little American flag pin in his lapel, just in case he gets confused.

The Times describes the scene outside: “If the world inside Banqueting House seemed black and white, out on the street it was mostly luminous green, as thousands of police in fluorescent jackets lined Whitehall for the policing equivalent of Shock and Awe. Japanese tourists filmed police filming a handful of hairy protesters on bicycles who filmed them back with hand-held camcorders, while the whole thing was filmed by 24-hour news channels. This is called total surveillance.

“Two policemen with a crowbar were prising up the manhole covers and peering anxiously into the sewers. Nearby, I found an American secret serviceman with no neck and the giveaway rubber spring hanging from an ear. He was staring with suspicion at a sign on the building next door which read: Swyddfa Ysgrifennydd Gwladol. I didn’t have the heart to tell him this was not some coded terrorist message but the Office of the Secretary of State for Wales.” [I’d have used that for my subject line, but I’d probably be hauled in for questioning by the Office of Homeland Security.]

The Guardian, meanwhile, assures us “All is calm, inside the bubble.” “lest he even breathe the same air as the protesters outside, he was ferried by limousine from the back door of the palace round to the front.”

Speaking of talking total tosh, here’s Colin Powell’s response to the (fired) Mexican ambassador to the UN: “Never, never, in no way, would we treat Mexico like our back yard or a second-class nation.”

There’s a reality show on Russian tv called Hunger in which 12 young Russians have to scrounge, beg, steal and possibly prostitute themselves on the streets of Berlin. None speak German. They get voted out by viewers, Big Brother style. The winner gets $1,000 a month for life.

Yet another Bush nominee to the bench has been blocked, but it’s by Republicans. Leon Holmes says it doesn’t matter whether there’s an exception for rape in abortion laws, because rape never leads to pregnancy. The theory is that the R’s don’t want to give him an up or down vote, because it would be down.

The Israeli military lied again.

Serves me for clicking on a headline “Teacher Suspended for Milk Lesson.” But if you want to...

Tuesday, November 18, 2003

Unbanned in Boston

The UN war crimes tribunal for ex-Yugoslavia has started to race through its backlog of cases by plea bargains, under pressure from the US. Because the principle in disposing of cases of systematic rape, killing of civilians, etc etc, should be not wasting too much time and effort.

Just in case anyone believed that Bush speech about bringing democracy to the Middle East, he names as next ambassador to Saudi Arabia, wait for it, a Texas oil lobbyist.

We here in Kallyfohrnia have a new governor. If you wake up tomorrow and the land mass of North America suddenly ends at Nevada, you’ll know the reason. He immediately rescinds the car tax by executive order, because you have to do something unconstitutional on your first day. His big plan for the budget turns out to be $15 billion in bond indebtedness (which means $15 billion in interest, buying exactly nothing). Ya know, anybody could have come up with that idea.

The Bushies just cancelled the only public event he had, which wasn’t very public, invited guests only. So the British people are paying millions for security, and all that disruption, just so that Bush can meet the queen and try to erase the impression he made on her the last time.

The Mass. Supreme Court rules that marriage cannot exclude homosexuals. Bush says that he will “defend the sanctity of marriage against the queers.” OK, I added those last 3 words, but who else would he be “defending” marriage from? I’d also like Bush just once to be made to define “sanctity.”

A trial is going on of a substantial proportion of the admittedly quite small adult male population of Pitcairn Island for sex crimes (where Fletcher Christian and the Bounty mutineers settled). They’re claiming that Pitcairn is in fact an independent country.

Florida suspends
constitutional rights to a speedy trial during the free trade meetings next week.

Wal-Mart
was selling a toy, made in China, that is supposed to be attached to cribs and makes ocean noises, and also subliminally says “I hate you” over and over. They’ve pulled the product, but refuse to admit to hearing the words.

Here’s a story I missed. A US lt-col. is being given a military hearing (like a pre-court martial)--safely out of the way of publicity in Tikrit--for beating and staging a mock execution of an Iraqi POW to extract information. Evidently, this is all over talk radio, which is defending the guy, who is claiming self defense in that the information he was seeking (the report doesn’t say if he got it) was about a plan to attack him and his unit.

Monday, November 17, 2003

The Brits have upped to 14,000 (or 16,000) the number of police protecting Shrub’s pathetic life, 1/9th of all cops in England & Wales. Never have so many... Presumably they think it’s appropriate to celebrate the alliance that invaded Iraq with a restaging in London suburbs of the sort of looting that followed the fall of Baghdad. I should go over there and pick up a few home decoration items from the British Museum. Anyone wanna help me carry the Elgin marbles? Evidently, Special Branch have a warning that a “mentally deranged lone fanatic with a fixation for George Bush” may be in London. Yes, that would be Tony Blair. Blair [grimly determined face] says “Now is not the time to waver. Now is the time to see it through.” It’s a fucking state visit, not the invasion of Normandy.

From the Guardian’s Zoe Williams: “Condoleezza Rice echoed this weird sentiment, talking about this week's rallies. "Protests are a part of our democratic heritage and our democratic privilege." Meanwhile, her government was lobbying ours for diplomatic immunity for the members of its security service, lest they shoot a protester by accident. Mindless anti-Americans might spot an inconsistency in this line: if marchers have democratic privilege, you'd think that would extend to not getting shot. In fact, her position is watertight - there is a long heritage of democratic protesters, but there's also a long heritage of shooting them while they do it.”

Bush, by the way, cancelled plans to address Parliament, because he would have been heckled.

I don’t know who in this story is stupider: “An American patrol opened fire yesterday on people in Baghdad's gun market, killing three, including an 11-year-old boy, after the soldiers mistook the gunfire of customers testing weapons for an attack, a witness and an Iraqi police officer said.”

The British ambassador to Uzbekistan is back at work. I’ve neglected to mention this story, which is a bit murky. The ambassador, Craig Murray, had the nerve actually to criticize Uzbekistan & its dictator, the arrest and torture of political opponents, the corruption, publicly and at length. The problem is that Uz. is along the American oil pipeline, so it gets a pass, and the US ordered the Brits to pull him out and leak to the press that he was a womanizing drunk. Which he isn’t. And now he’s back.

And the Mexican ambassador to the UN has been recalled for saying that the US treats his country as a back yard. Ambassadors who tell the truth, whatever will they think of next?

We know that Ashcroft stopped the FBI (ATF?) using Brady Act data to figure out whether the 9/11 terrorists had bought guns (Michael Moore mentioned it on CSPAN yesterday). Now they’ve got a new system that prevents the Feebs tracking people on the terrorism watch list who have purchased weapons. And certainly can’t stop them exercising their sacred 2nd Amendment rights.